Can you briefly introduce i-80 Gold Corp?
i-80 Gold Corp is a gold producer and developer with a wide portfolio of advanced-stage gold projects in Nevada. The company was created as a spin-out of Premier Gold Mines Limited’s US assets in connection with the transaction whereby Equinox Gold acquired Premier in 2021. We currently trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange and our goal is to also trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
Could you tell us about i-80 Gold Corp’s recent asset exchange with Nevada Gold Mines (NGM) and other recent acquisitions?
In early September 2021, we announced that we had entered into definitive agreements with NGM to acquire the Lone Tree gold deposit, placed under care and maintenance by NGM, and the nearby Buffalo Mountain gold deposit, which is currently being permitted by NGM. Lone Tree was a producing mine, hosting substantial processing infrastructure such as Nevada’s only fully permitted idle, under care and maintenance autoclave. Therefore, it was an important acquisition for us in our effort to become a standalone producer in the state, as most deposits are transitioning to liberate gold from the oxide mineralization into sulphides. NGM and First Majestic are the only companies in Nevada with that type of processing infrastructure.
In exchange for these properties, NGM would receive the remaining 40% ownership from our joint venture in our South Arturo property, where they already owned 60%. This would consolidate 100% ownership of South Arturo in NGM, providing them with flexibility to pursue potential operational synergies with their other properties.
In addition, we have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the Ruby Hill project from Waterton Global Resource Management. It is an operating open pit gold mine with substantial high grade underground potential, particularly since we are in the process of acquiring our own refract reward processing facility.
Can you elaborate on i-80 Gold Corp’s underground test mining program at Granite Creek?
We recently embarked on an underground test mining program at our Granite Creek operation. Rehabilitation work was carried out on much of the underground workings. We are currently performing underground surface drilling and preparing it for what we hope is a production decision late 2021 or early 2022. Part of the arrangement with NGM states that until we get the laundry facility operational, they will grant us capacity at their existing facilities for our existing projects so we can start advancing our current portfolio.
What is i-80 Gold Corp’s financing strategy to develop its portfolio?
i-80 possesses a strong balance sheet, reflected in the fact that we ended Q2 with over US$70 million in cash. NGM, as part of our whole arrangement, has agreed to take part in private placements, so they will own 9.9% interest in our company at closing, making them a fairly significant shareholder in i-80 Gold Corp. Therefore, they will contribute approximately US$15 million in cash. We also entered into a term sheet arrangement with New York-based Orion Mine Finance for an initial US$125 million in capital through mezzanine-type financing with an accordion feature that would allow us to take another US$100 million. This puts us in an excellent position to develop our projects.
What will be i-80 Gold Corp’s key priorities in the next year and do you have a final message?
i-80 is unique in Nevada because, following the deal closing with NGM in mid-October 2021, we became one of only three companies with processing capabilities for refractory ore types. A company's ability to operate in Nevada for the long term will depend on having processing facilities. It will also become more difficult to get the permits to build processing facilities as ESG conditions become stricter. Therefore, having these facilities grants us a competitive advantage in the state.
We are aggressively drilling on multiple projects, and we have a growth profile through our existing and mostly fully permitted assets. In our peer group, we offer the best growth profile that you will find from a small company with the potential to become a significant mid-tier producer. Our goal is to become the second-biggest producer in Nevada, after NGM.